(Note: The following post was first published in February 2011; however, City of Heroes was unceremoniously shut down by its parent company, NCSoft, in November of 2012, amid much outcry from its devoted fans, myself among them. Currently, many of us are fighting for NCSoft to release the intellectual property rights so that we can keep CoH going as a fan-based game. After some debate, I have chosen to let the original post stand–with some minor edits–as a testament to how awesome this game was and still can be if certain folks will let it be.)
City of Heroes is an experience-based superhero game, which is only similar to World of Warcraft and its ilk on the surface. Boasting a powerful, nuanced character design module which has been touted by players of many different MMOs, plus a user-friendly screen design and playstyle which make the game approachable for even younger players, CoH is at once an environment rich in creativity but relaxing to play.
As a superhero in the fictional Paragon City, your job is to defeat bad guys (“arrest” them), get experience and items from them, level up, and get new powers. You can create your own superheroes based on several different archetypes:
The Five Basic Hero Types
Helps neutralize baddies by slowing them, holding or immobilizing them, putting them to sleep, confusing them, or scaring them into submission. Not a damage-dealing class necessarily, but wonderful for supporting teams, especially for helping to soften up lieutenants, bosses, and elite bosses.
Does a little bit of everything–Defenders can be second-string ranged attackers, can buff allies and debuff enemies, or heal and protect allies. This is a hard class to develop because there are so many directions you can go with it, but it is a great team-support class. You can literally become a Jack- or Jill-of-all-trades with a Defender!
Superior ranged attacker. Not so good up close, though the Blaster secondary powersets get some close-combat powers as backup. They are definitely not Tanks, so they can be fragile, but usually you’re taking out the enemies so fast it doesn’t matter. Good to play either solo or in teams, as they provide excellent cover fire for close-combat allies.
Superior close-combat attacker. Can get shot to pieces before they can get close enough to attack, but the secondary defensive powersets can help a Scrapper stay alive longer. Again, they’re not Tanks, but their fragility is offset by their damage potential. Great for playing solo, can play in teams (just be careful not to go off by yourself and get killed!).
Usually “Last Man/Last Woman Standing” of a team. Has the highest defense of any class, so Tanks can take lots more damage before being defeated. They are close-combat attackers, like Scrappers, but they don’t deal nearly the same amount of damage; however, teams benefit greatly from Tanks drawing fire away from the more fragile classes. They can play solo, but it’s usually faster and more enjoyable to level if you play your Tank in a team.
The Two Epic Hero Types
There are also two Epic classes, called the Peacebringer and the Warshade. They operate fairly similarly in terms of gameplay and build–you can build your PB or WS to be close-combat, range, or a cool blend of the two. They function like a combo of Blaster and Scrapper, with all the fragility and damage potential included. They also have three forms–human (balance of offense and defense), Nova (flight, higher offense, lower defense) and Dwarf (heavy, higher defense, lower offense). They are like a Swiss Army Knife hero!
Which form you prefer depends on how you like to play, but you can change the form up on the fly with a push of a button. The only caveat? You can’t build a Peacebringer or Warshade until you have a regular hero (Blaster, Controller, etc.) leveled up to level 20.
Players can play missions (quests, for WoW players) by themselves, or they can play their missions with teams of superheroes working together. You can make a team with anybody–just ask somebody if they want to team! Some people play solo much better, and some players, like me, play in teams much better. It all depends on your personality. For me, CoH is such a social game that I have a lot more fun playing with others; playing by myself tends to make me feel lonely.
What Makes CoH Different
In City of Heroes, the more relaxed pace of gaming makes it stand out among MMOs. You don’t just have to play missions and beat baddie butt; in fact, the game’s many Easter eggs and side quests encourage you to stop and smell the roses while you level up. Sure, you can power-level if you want, but you’ll be missing out on what makes CoH great. Run around aimlessly in zones, see all the scenery, listen to NPC chat, click historical plaques, and run every mission you can, even the ones you think aren’t useful; you’ll learn more about the City of Heroes lore than you ever knew.
Also, you don’t have to play CoH 12 hours a day to get the absolute best of everything. This game attracts working people, students, and even parents and grandparents because it’s more approachable–the emphasis of the game lies more in developing your own heroes rather than constant raids and long quests (though raids and quests ARE available for those who want them). Also, “gear” is not worn, but equipped, and has no effect on your costume, so you can design your costume any way you want!
Lastly, creativity is important. In CoH, it’s not about mimicking an established comic book hero (since that kind of thing can get you in trouble); it’s about developing your own character and fitting them into the landscape of Paragon City, perhaps combining powersets you always wanted to try together, just for curiosity’s sake. Many players, like me, go on to make involved backstories for their characters even if they’re not on a roleplay server (which is available, by the way).
To Learn More about City of Heroes
Though CoH may be playing the role of Sleeping Beauty (or perhaps Lazarus) at the moment, we fans are keeping it alive and active in our memories and stories. The “official” CoH site has been recreated by fans on cityofheroes.ca, and I myself have created a fansite for it called Skies over Atlas, which has its own Twitter account, @skiesoveratlas. You can also check the #SaveCoH tag on Twitter to follow fan communications about the game. Rest assured, we won’t forget!